People often ask for my favorite chicken recipes, but truth be told, I didn’t eat a lot of chicken growing up, mostly seafood, pasta and vegetables, which is what my mom was partial to. I do make her succulent whole roasted chicken with root vegetables often in the winter (I sometimes substitute game hens), and in the summer, I like to prepare my grandfather’s pollo al mattone (chicken under a brick) on the grill. My “second mom,” Kickie, taught me her recipe for Kentucky pan-fried chicken, which she’s been making since she was a little girl — it’s the most delicious fried chicken I’ve ever eaten and well worth the learning curve (pan frying chicken is harder than it sounds. You can find the recipe for Kickie Fried Chicken.
The other thing people ask for is “easy weeknight meals,” and many of those requests include chicken as the main ingredient. I do have two go-to one-pot braised chicken recipes that I love. I’ve been making the Jacques Pepin recipe for many years; sometimes I do an earthy, savory version using sautéed wild mushrooms, sage and rosemary in place of the lemon, orange and ginger. For the recipe from Marja Vongerichten (wife of renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten), you’ll need a few traditional Korean ingredients available at any Korean market (try First Korean, 4625 Geary Street near Park Presidio) or online (I get them at www.hmart.com).
Tips and tricks: As always, use responsibly raised chicken (I like Mary’s, available at better markets like Whole Foods). Yes, it costs a bit more, but it’s worth it, not only because the chicken is more humanely raised but also because it’s safer — salmonella outbreaks at factory operations like Foster Farms and Tyson are becoming increasingly more common. The new FDA recommendation is not to rinse chicken because it sprays bacteria all over the sink, countertops and you. Just pat it dry. Always make sure the juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thickest part of the meat (not near the bone).
Jacques Pepin’s Spicy Ginger and Lemon Chicken
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Dash of salt
- Dash of dried thyme leaves
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 2 chicken quarters, skin removed (you can also use just thighs or drumsticks)
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 strips lemon zest
- 2 strips orange zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ cup sweet apple cider
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Mix together the chili powder, cumin, salt, thyme, cayenne pepper, and flour in a bowl. Coat the chicken legs in this mixture.
Heat the olive oil into a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total.
Add the lemon zest, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and apple cider. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and cook for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with the pan sauce (suggested sides: mashed potatoes or rice and salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing or green vegetables).
Marja’s Easy Braised Chicken
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons gochugaru (red pepper powder)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons gochujang (red pepper paste)
- 3 tablespoons soju
- One 4-pound chicken or 10 chicken pieces of your choice
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Umma paste
- 1 tablespoon soju, sake, vodka, or water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- 8 small boiling potatoes, peeled
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 bunches scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 fresh green chile pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 fresh red chile pepper; thinly sliced Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)
Umma Paste: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree to a smooth paste.
Chicken: Whisk together ½ cup water, the umma paste, soju, honey, and sesame seeds. Set aside.
Cut the chicken into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, halve the breasts; alternatively, ask a butcher to do this for you). Season chicken pieces aggressively all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large, wide heavy pot over high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown on both sides, 6 to 7 minutes per side.
When all the chicken is browned, add potatoes, onions, carrots, scallions, and reserved umma paste sauce to the pot and stir everything together. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees) and the potatoes are tender, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with chilies and serve with rice (optional).